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SCIENCE
MECHANICS AND HANDICRAFT
There's room in one driveway for a standard car and this two-seater, too. With a 72-inch

This one-cylinder midget, designed There's no clutch pedal, no gearshift lever,


by former airmen, has a two-speed no Greek-lettered selector quadrant. You
automatic drive. It can be bought drive with one foot—which controls an hon-
unassembled, or in a crate ready to run. est-to-goodness two-speed transmission.
All you do to start up is step on the gas.
By Harry Walton After a short run in low, you let up for a
moment, press down again, and pick up in
I N a small Ohio town a couple of ex-fliers
are turning out a two-passenger car you
can buy for about $400, before taxes and
high—just as in the latest automatic jobs.
Downgrade, the engine gives compression
braking down to about 15 m.p.h.
trimmings. Things like fenders, windshield, Climbing hills, the engine stays in high
top and bumpers are considered extras, but until it drops considerably below the cut-in
even they leave the price tag on speaking speed. Then it shifts to low and keeps right
terms with $500. on. You can't forget to shift, and you can't
The car is really practical. It will run a stall the-engine.
dozen errands and still give you change out Who makes it? The King Midget got
of a buck at the gas pump. As I found by off to an imperceptible start when two pilots
driving it, it will climb steep grades, make met in the Civil Air Patrol. Both were ma-
better than 40 on the highway, squeeze into chinists by trade; both had built their own
a substandard parking space, and ride out planes, as well as cars and motor scooters.
real bumps. It will seat two husky passen- And both wanted to manufacture something
gers and take a couple of armloads of pack- with an engine in it.
ages as well. Chunky, blue-eyed Dale Orcutt dreamed
Anybody can drive it. If you have an of turning out planes at first, for both pilots
able-bodied maiden aunt who never got the had ideas about aircraft design. But Claud
hang of the old electrics, you can teach her Dry, once an aerial photographer and opera-
to drive the King Midget in five minutes. tor of a small airport, was less optimistic
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wheelbase and a 42-inch tread, it fits into a space only 48 inches wide and 8-1/2 feet long.

about private flying. Inevitably the talk got that was almost as complicated and costly.
around to midget cars. The new car had to be planned from a
The partners decided to keep their feet on fresh start. One-wheel drive was found to be
the ground. In 1945 they bought out a de- effective if car weight was properly dis-
funct motor-scooter factory, named their tributed and springing right. The engine
new firm Midget Motors Supply, and es- went in back, on the drive-wheel side. Rope
tablished their plant in Athens, Ohio. and pedal starting were discarded in favor
By 1946 they had designed a single-pas- of a retractable cable. This runs over pul-
senger midget racing car and bought out leys, giving a two-to-one advantage, to a
two more scooter plants. A powerful scooter rack that meshes with a pinion on the
of their own design was a success and is engine—but only when you pull the cable.
still in production. But their dream was to Simplicity, patented. The King Midget
build a small two-passenger car. is starkly simple where it doesn't hurt, but
The difficulties loomed large. A differ- significant details aren't skimped. For in-
ential would boost costs formidably; would
one-wheel drive do? Could a really light car Four can tote it. The car weighs less than
be roadworthy? Could a mechanical starter 500 pounds, with most of this on the rear wheels.
One man can slide the front: end to get the
be devised, saving the price of a complete midget in or out of a tight space.
electric system? Nine test cars were bviilt—at
the price, they ruefully assert, of 12 Cadil-
lacs. One was hastily junked; others revealed
basic design headaches.
It's no scale model. They found the
answers in their knowledge of small-plane
construction, and in their own ingenuity. If
you just scaled down a big car, they rea-
soned, you'd wind up with a small one
NOVEMBER 1951 105
You can buy it knocked
down. Metal parts of the
body (right) are steel.
Fenders, bumpers, cloth
top and plastic wind-
shield are extra. Basic unit
is the welded frame, of
seamless steel tubing and
airplane-type channel,
shown below with wheels
and engine. Buyer needs
only common tools.

stance, brake drums were first stamped, but


they warped out of round in use. Now
they're lathe-turned from heavy-walled
seamless steel tubing.
Wary of imitators. Dry and Orcutt have
patented several of the Midget's features.
Take the brake system. Hydraulic brakes
are self-equalizing but costly to make.
Mechanical brakes are troublesome to Power plant. Inside this little bus is a
equalize, hard to keep that way. Wanted: one-cylinder, 23-cubic-inch Wisconsin en-
self-equalizing mechanical brakes. gine. But there's no one-lung jerkiness to
The King Midget has internal-expanding the car. Pickup is smooth, and the shift to
brakes actuated by cables. But the gimmick high quick and easy. The four-cycle engine
is in the cable rigging. It runs from one is rated 7-1/2 horsepower at the comparatively
brake to a pulley near the driver's feet, low speed of 3000 revolutions per minute.
across the car, around another pulley, and It is air-cooled by a built-in blower (there's
back to the other brake. These pulleys are no radiator).
mounted on the ends of a pivoted bar to This engine boasts such features as roller
which the pedal is welded. The bar multi- crankshaft bearings and an oil-bath air clean-
plies pedal leverage, while the cable, free er. There are also a two-jet carburetor, auto-
to move over the two pulleys, equalizes it- matic spark advance and impulsed-coupled
self at all times. magneto ignition. This last means you don't
The hand brake is a simple lever working have to spin the engine like a whirling
on the toggle principle. When thrown so dervish to get a hot starting spark.
that the cable pull is just past dead center, Standard starting equipment is the Yankee
it holds positively—without tooth or ratchet. type—you yank a retractable cable on the
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Or they'll put it together for you, and paint it and wheels are made in Athens, Ohio, factory.
a standard cream finish. All parts except engine Above is one of the assembly lines.

side of the car. Since you can't stall the en- in after the gas pedal is momentarily let up.
gine, one start lasts a whole trip. You can The two-speed transmission, listed as an
get a battery-powered starter as an extra. extra, gives better pickup and hill-climbing
The engine holds three pints of oil, cir- ability, for it affords two distinct drive ratios.
culated by a pump. You switch from grade The car PS tried out had this transmission.
30 in summer to 20 in winter. That's all the This patented drive gets results with a
winter conditioning you do. minimum of parts, complication and cost.
It shifts for itself. The car can be It consists of dual V-belt drives, with pulleys
bought with a single-ratio automatic drive. of different ratios, and two automatic
This is a centrifugal clutch of special design clutches. These operate somewhat like self-
that lets the engine outrun the drive for energizing brakes, engaging at a much high-
a quick getaway and pickup, and locks it er speed than they will disengage at. The

Leg r o o m is good, and you don t sit way down Starter cable has handle on driver's side of
—seat is 9-1/2 inches above floor. Although seat the body. Small button above louvers is the
cannot be moved forward or back, brake and choke. Cable retracts into body. Once the en-
gas-pedal mounting can be adjusted to suit. gine is running, you can't stall it.
NOVEMBER 1951 107
Oil is checked on a dipstick. Engine holds One-cylinder power plant slides on its mounts
three pints. Being air-cooled, it requires no for tensioning drive belt (not shown). Pulleys
antifreeze in winter, only lighter oil. Spare tire seen are for the single-ratio drive. Lighting
goes on outside of rear panel. generator runs only when lights are wanted.

low-speed clutch gets the car off to a smooth a positive lock when they are engaged. Both
start. Then, at about 14 miles an hour, the V belts are the heavy industrial type, with
high-speed clutch locks in, the low-speed steel cables inside.
drive free-wheels through an overrunning The jackshaft drives a gearbox by which
device, and you're rolling in high. the car can be reversed. From there a
On a hill, you stay in high until speed motorcycle chain drives the right rear wheel.
drops to about seven miles an hour. Then To back up the car, you flip over a short
there's a quick automatic shift to low, dur- lever under the front of the seat. That's the
ing which the engine picks up speed. You only time you touch anything resembling a
go right up. gearshift, and the only thing Aunt Matilda
The centrifugal elements that take up the could stub a thumb on. The lever has a
load are faced with molded lining and give neutral position, so the car can be towed

Chain from jackshaft drives rear wheel. Start- cable is pulled. Wheels run on tapered roller
er meshes rack with engine pinion only when bearings. Tires are 5.50 by 8, 18 inches outside.
108 POPULAR SCIENCE
Wheels are sprung independently. Each rear Four-wheel springing can take it, as I discov-
one is mounted on a triangular frame pivoted ered by repeatedly running up curb at drive-
at its wide end (upper right in photo). Front ways and then hopping off (above). The bump
wheels have enclosed springs, oil shocks. was easy, and there was no loss of control.

easily, without turning the engine over. shield—it costs less than safety glass, is light
How's the ride? Not sedan-soft, but and nonshatterable, but can be scratched.
by no means uncomfortable. All four wheels How about bad weather? Side curtains
are independently sprung—the rear ones on and heater are extras. The curtains are fitted
coil springs, not snubbed, and the front ones on a steel frame, hinged like a door. The
on oil-filled combination shocks and springs, canvas top stretches over a strong steel-tub-
heavily snubbed. You can bounce the back ing frame, well supported by the windshield
of the car, but not the front. Despite the posts and by braces at the rear. But you can't
absence of rear shock absorbers, the drive take the top down on the road, for there is
wheel will always stay flat-footed on the no way to stow the frame. "Next year, may-
ground. be we can make it fold," say the designers
Steering is through a gear and segment, hopefully.
with a much lower ratio than the one in your What about servicing? King Midget
Breezeway Eight. The Midget responds like dealers are scarce, but the little car has
a sports car on the turns; a twitch and you're fewer potential trouble spots than any other.
around the corner. But that snubbed front The drive chain, subject to grit and wet, may
end makes it foot around the curves nicely; need occasional adjustment or replacement.
there's no sway or wandering. With its low Drive-belt tension is a simple matter of
center of gravity, it would be hard to turn tightening a draw bolt on the engine. Brake
over. adjustments are easy and obvious.
The chassis is of welded-steel tube and Owners who know which end of a wrench
channel. Body parts are cold-rolled steel. fits the bolt will probably enjoy working on
Like a plane, the car has a plastic wind- [Continued on page 266]

Top speed won't get you a ticket on this high- From dead slop, car started up 37-percent
way. Officer Joe McBride of Athens police grade (tough even to walk on), though drive
clocked a new King Midget for PS at 42 m.p.h. wheel spun on smooth brick. On ordinary
The car will beat that when broken in. "steep" 17-percent hill, wheel didn't slip.
NOVEMBER 1951 109
500-Lb. Car for $500
[Continued from page 109]

the car themselves. For others there's the


corner garage or motorcycle repair shop.
Lubrication is so simple you don't need
a service-station grease job: Engine oil is
added or changed as necessary. The front
shocks are filled with oil. Wheel bearings
need packing twice a year as on big cars.
That leaves only the steering and reverse-
gear cases, jackshaft bearings, rear-wheel
mounts, and chain to lubricate.
Drive after dark, too. The battery-
less version of the King Midget can be or-
dered with lights and a 35-watt, com-
pensated-output AC generator. You have to
reach back over the deck to a lever that
moves the generator against the engine fly-
wheel (what do you want, dash control?).
The automatic compensation gives you good
lights even at low speed. The dimmer switch
is on the dash.
Where state laws require parking lights
independent of the engine, a dry-cell stand-
by battery can be installed.
Any color, as long as it's cream. As
part of the price struggle, the makers of the
King Midget have standardized everything
Pat. Pending
—even the overspray in the paint booth. It
has to help finish the next car, for they spray
Get Out of Trouble a cream finish on six cars at once. If you
want some other color, it will cost you ten
After Your Car is Stuck bucks extra.
Buy it knocked down. If you buy a
On Ice, In Snow, Mud or Sand King Midget fully assembled, it will come
An amazing new invention . . . PRESTO Emergency Tire in its own crate, which you have only to
Chains are snapped on to wheels instantly after your
car is stuck . . . not before. This assures a saving in fuel,
open at one end to roll the car out, ready
tire wear and time . . . you drive smoothly along with to run. The crate is returnable.
complete confidence of having efficient traction to get You can save a few bucks by ordering it
out of trouble from wheels spinning next to the curb, in
ruts, on ice at intersections, getting up that sloping in separate units—chassis, engine and drive,
driveway, off wet and muddy highway shoulders, in mud fenders, body and so forth. All parts are pre-
or snow. Chains are used only when needed and there-
fore give years of service. There are no straps to tighten
fabricated and can be assembled with just
. . . no jacking up the car . . . no loss of time, fuel and a few tools. A booklet giving assembly in-
tires because you can get your car out of trouble in- structions is provided. If you buy it unas-
stantly, this easy PRESTO way:-
Magic clips are inserted be- sembled, you have to paint it yourself, END
tween the tire and rim (like
wheel balancers) and chains art-
attached instantly when needed. Screw-Nails Stop Floor Squeaks
•Wheels stay in balance
and the clips are unnoticed. SQUEAKY flooring may be prevented by apply-
One box of four Chains
(enough for one car) as- ing the planks with helical-threaded nails, Vir-
sures trouble-free driving. ginia Polytechnic Institute's Wood Laboratory
Order direct for two weeks reports. Driven with a hammer but holding like
trial on our money-back screws, the nails show far greater and more
guarantee of your entire
satisfaction. Postage prepaid NO. 1 SIZE (for one car) fit 5.25
lasting holding power than cut flooring nails or
if payment in full is sent to 7.20 tires, $5.95. NO. 2 SIZE plain-shank flooring brads of equal size. Earlier
with order, or write for free
circular.
(for one car) fit 7.60 to 8.20 Institute tests (PS, Sept. '50, p. 126) have dem-
tires, $6.45.
Dealers, Agents Wanted.
onstrated the usefulness of the helical-threaded
nails called Screw-tite nails, in other applica-
PRESTO CHAIN CO. tions.
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